13 Sept 2018: “Who is my enemy?”

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Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: 1Cor. 8:1b-7, 11-13; Gospel: Lk. 6:27-38

“Who is my enemy?” I wish if somebody were to raise this question to Jesus. Just like the lawyer who asked him once as to who was his neighbour. Jesus could have very well given us another beautiful parable like the Good Samaritan and settle this issue once and for all.

Look at the first reading. St. Paul says that the knowledge we presume to have is dangerous. Wisdom humbles a person. But knowledge could puff us up with pride. Pride is that sin which induces us to belittle our fellow beings, and at times, equal ourselves with God. Those who harm us either by word or deed are ones we usually refer to as enemies. Only the proud could harm his/her fellow beings knowingly and with full knowledge. The question is how sure are we about our enemies? Do they deserve to be hated, to be condemned, to be avenged? Was Jesus silent to these questions? Of course not. Today’s gospel passage answers all these questions and more. Forget hating, condemning or avenging them, but He says to love our enemies, to pray for them, why, even bless them even if there were to curse you. He exhorts us to be merciful just as our Father is merciful.

Yes, Jesus goes on at length to tell us how we should treat our enemies in a way that’s becoming of us as children of God. That it is a commendable teaching is beyond dispute. But it doesn’t negate the fact that it’s way too difficult to put into practice. Probably if we could find an answer to the question Who is my enemy?, it might make it a lot easier for us to do it.  Did Jesus really answer this ever-evading question? Oh yes. It is we who comfortably avoid his downright answer.

He did so in a manner more asserting than a parable. A parable at best could exhort us, but through an imperative statement or rather a command, Jesus puts this matter to rest. When Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him after having heard of his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus said to him, “Get behind me Satan…” Note that he did not say “Get behind me Peter” but “Satan” (Matt. 16:23).

Our enemy is not our offender but the Satan who gets him/her to offend us. Our offender is as much a victim as we who are offended! If we are the victim of the offender, the offender him/herself is the victim of the Devil who cons him/her to do it. All he/she is guilty of, is having a weak conscience, of being tempted, of not being strong enough to resist it. Therefore by forgiving or praying for our transgressors we are not doing them a favour, but doing reparation for our former transgressions – it’s just one victim praying for another. The real enemy is the Devil.

Just like we scandalize our brethren of weak conscience by our presumptuousness and emboldening them to eat the food offered to the idols (as Paul mentions in the first reading), so do we embolden our transgressors of weak conscience to perpetuate his/her evil doings by alienating them.  

Hate the sin, not the sinner. Condemn the devil, not his victim.

Let’s take inspiration from Jesus himself, who on the cross, cried out to God, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Lk. 23: 34).

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